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3) Earth - Dirr'mpho

Dirr'mpho moved with assurance through the jungle as she did through life. Over the years she had lived here she knew what was required mainly that wariness was key. She came upon what she expected - the dwelling, there had been signs over the last mile or two where someone had left signs of their search for sustenance.

She thought back to what had brought this moment. As a young girl her expanding mind had directed her intelligence to western education. After receiving their doctrine she had happily worked in the city establishing her own business. But soon her small firm's 7-figure turnover was not enough and she began to ask why. She undoubtedly would have been termed a success but more and more she longed for her upbringing, the villages she knew, the kids proliferating with laughter in every corner of her land, the frogs with their incessant noise at night, the skies with the stars sparkling encouraging the mind to wander and search contentedly.

These longings were plaguing her spare moments. At work she was busy, she did what she did - she cared for her staff, she couldn't let them down. But at home she had nothing except the bottle, and she had seen too many of her people in the city emptying them. One day she called her staff in.

"It's time for me to move on," she announced, expecting a shocked silence. None came, they knew - they had been expecting the worse for a while as they had been covering up occasional errors. "My village needs money so I am going back to them," they feared the worst - asset strippers "but you have all helped me so I will help with a workers' buyout." The paperwork done, the mixed emotion of the leaving do, her mind ahead of her yet the opposite pulls of those who clearly appreciated her holding her back. With the exchange of meaningless contacts, the wont of good intentions that never panned out in busy city life. And she was on the plane home.

After the endless journey, major flight terminal bus to local centre where a district bus took her far away where she was collected by the village car, and regaled for days. Not only was she missed by her family but her remitted money had paid for much of the village's minimal infrastructure. She had burst into tears when she saw the borehole with its makeshift plaque - Dirr'mpho Metsemala pipe, from our sister far away.

Once back she soon learned why she had left, she felt some dissatisfaction. To be perfectly honest she was bored, and she felt she could do far more for her community. The trouble is everything she did was resisted in some ways. Sure they wanted her money but everything they discussed was short-term and needing replenishment - nothing sustainable. Take the clinic. She knew a clinic was needed but all they wanted was for her to pay to send patients to distant hospitals. "What if I trained someone to become a nurse?" But they were scared, suppose a patient died they would be blamed - cursed for life and their family.

Frustrated by her latest failure one late afternoon she took the bakkie afar and walked. As expected the track petered out, and she started walking up a hill. Part way up she scrambled out onto a rock that jutted out from the trees. Down below she could see the river, and she watched as I snaked its way gently out to the horizon - she knew it went to Pargento, and then on to the sea far away. The river was traversable to here but soon after the hills rose more steeply - even to a small waterfall. Much of that was inaccessible, and certainly not by boat. When she was young she knew a boat came here but then there was more money around. Now no-one came because the profits were too small.

Slowly the ideas crystallised. A boat to Pargento, from there a charter plane to Jarponburg, where they could connect with international flights. From her city people could be in Pargento and settled in a hotel within 12 hours. The boat trip up would be 4 hours but could be turned into a pleasure and game cruise - maybe 6 hours. And she could get her people to build a small resort. Their housing could blend naturally in amongst the trees. OK there'd have to be a swimming pool. She'd attach a clinic to the resort, and would have to provide internet for the guests that maybe she could get young people to use. Maybe she could setup something to make a small school.

It wasn't plain sailing but she hadn't been a business success by being a hick. Within a year the resort was ready for opening. She chartered a plane for the media and eco-reps, even the most reactionary smiled at the swimming pool because even from the air it was the only thing that looked badly out of place. When they considered the clinic, the internet and the school building, no-one wanted to complain.

From her uni and a few contacts from business, she gave out a few loss leaders, and within a year she broke even after wages and payments. And the next year a small profit that she was able to use to build up the school.

Meanwhile one or two of the villagers began to see the advantages, and a few came out from Pargento. She trained them up with the ultimate objective of herself not working. That never quite worked but it wasn't that long when she only had to put her head in.

As she looked at the dwelling she also reflected on Yunio's visit - if he could see her people now. At the resort her organisation was almost complete, and in the village the school was taking off. Whatever her people started from, in the end the issue was only motivation. Why learn to read when there were no books? Why learn to add up when trading was mainly barter?

She had even setup her own local currency that she financed if people wanted to go to Pargento or beyond - few did. It was more that people wanted to come to the village of Dirrum resort. In that way no slick money-lender could come in and cause problems, especially as her rates never involved any profit. Who could compete? She couldn't resist the TVs but she brought them in on her boat, far cheaper in her currency than anything people could buy in Pargento or even Jarponburg. As all transactions indirectly came through her coffers she attempted to control development, and once she was trusted with her city ways the elders worked with her in controlling the land so there was no great influx of spoilers.

So what was this dwelling?

For a while fear took over. Whilst comfortable with the jungle, she could read her signs, man was completely different. This far away from the village could be an outcast or it could simply be a traveller. She began to look around. Where was the fire? She found something but it looked barely used. How did this traveller cook? Then she saw the stove - out of place? Mosquito net - western brand?

She heard sounds of walking, and scampered out of sight. A white man came in sight, a white man. She was even more frightened. She had heard of white bush guys. They had their own code, and black people didn't fit high within it. Yet they were strangely close to Nature, but their birthright had left a distortion in their minds - the birthright of imposition.

From her hideout she watched this man - as if it was some kind of game drive. She imagined one of those appalling documentaries with the dry but knowledgeable voice. "Slowly the animal (in this case man) wandered around its camp searching for what I can only think is food. Whilst this man relied on his intellect for survival, his knife was still a magic wand that enabled him to unearth the goods that would feed the intellect." "Rubbish," she thought, and then she screamed out loud "Yunio." The man jumped up alarmed as she ran to meet him At first he didn't recognise her as she was not wearing the business suit, and carrying her mixture of city and country airs and graces.

"Mpho, it is Mpho!" she shouted at him, willing him to recognise her. Eventually his rigid mind opened up, and he saw beyond the locks to the face of Mpho whom he had been briefly so close to when visiting the US.

Haltingly he called out Mpho, as she smothered him in a hug. He relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of her heart and the feel of her body. After a while she let go, and sat down by his metal fire, his stove. There was a silence, and then she asked "What are you doing here?"

And that started his story, and then her story, and before they knew it their words had created a bond, far beyond any had either experienced before. Night had fallen, and his lamp added local light to the joy of the stars.

"It is too late to walk back down, I must call or they will come looking," she noted. And soon they lay in each other's arms by the fire staring at the stars. With their words having exhausted other contact grew as their essences entwined amidst the feel of Nature that abounded.

"Let me light a fire," she interjected later on, and slowly he watched as she grabbed the twigs formed them into a tent enclosing dry parched leaves that quickly lit. Once the leaves had burned and lit the kindling, she added more of the moss and dried twigs, and then placed one branch in the fire. It caught at the end. Then she added another, and the two branches smouldered away gently whilst they were there. He was not bitten once by the mosquitoes whilst they were out there.

It got late and the mood changed slightly as joy turned to passion. They moved inside the dwelling and enjoyed each other's bodies before drifting into sleep.

She awoke first, and caught the dying embers of the fire to make breakfast. Yunio emerged to find her by the fire, legs akimbo, catching the warmth needed early in the day. He pecked her cheek smelling the warmth and freshness of her newly-bathed day. He sat beside her, ate and began to think of what had happened, and how they would retain its importance.

Towards the end of the day, Dirr'mpho told Yunio that she had to return to her village, but that she would be back. And she did so. To begin with it was the next day, but her visits became less frequent, one thing or another required her attention. Yunio's calm had been destroyed. Instead of enjoying his peace too much of him was waiting for Mpho's visits. She knew this, but what could she do? She had her duties, and they were important to her - not as important as Yunio but life couldn't stop. Yunio resisted a long time but in the end he told her that she was more important than his living at peace alone. So he moved in with her.

Initially this shocked many in the village - a white man, but they found that Madame was no different in her behaviour to them so gradually he was accepted, never one of them but not an outsider either. Her balance was almost complete ad she had Yunio, and she looked after her village. But for Yunio it never was, but he compensated by regular trips to their real home - sometimes she came with him.

This lasted several years but slowly they became more and more unsettled, as the proverbial dark clouds rose on the horizon. In a sense it was physical dark clouds. For years activists had complained about the damage to the environment. Initially it had been the nuclear fear, but gradually brinkmanship dealt with that. However business continued to expand in an uncaring fashion, and unthinking people complied with it's mass marketing purchasing the latest gadget and home convenience. More and more the by-products of these processes caused ecological damage, but it tended to be hidden to most people's eyes affecting the polar regions first. But soon people noticed weather changes, and of course these changes hit the precarious balance of the poor first. Whilst they were more resilient after years of hardship, they still needed their crops. When the weather caused these to fail, it sent shudders through Mpho's village. Her tourism still gave income and livelihood - often personally supplemented, but she could feel things getting worse.

The greatest change occurred with nano technology, or as she called it something-for-nothing technology. Once they discovered methods for manipulating Nature at such a small level, the scientists found they could develop more and more new gizmos to sell. Business loved nanotechnology. Product after product came off the R&D production line, into the shops, and into the consumer havens. Life was made so much easier for those that could afford it. In the West cooking almost disappeared as nano-packs of food were developed, whereby unsealing allowed the rich young executive to enjoy the taste of nano-cuisine. Soon most of the chores of life became obsolete for the rich - and not-so-rich, as profits rolled into nano-business. Clothes, cosmetics, foods, nanotricity, all used these micro-molecular manipulations and brought them into everyday life.

But the business R&D was only interested in new products, and not humanity. Increasingly new strains of cancer appeared, heart disease increased, and the West ignored the fact that they preponderated with them. Sound people had warned the world, business of the dangers of playing with Nature. The scientists never knew what they were dealing with. Sure they developed products that gave short-term benefits but what of the long-term consequences? Nano-manipulations created strength within their own molecules and such strengths produced the products. But there was never sufficient research carried out. Some warnings included nano-contact with human skin. Whilst the cosmetics gave the required beauty initially, the contact cause an imbalance below the nano-level, at a level only Nature knew and man's machines could not measure. Long term users of nano-cosmetics developed ugly facial blemishes that were the surface of cancers. Nano-foods did not provide complete nutrition. Scientists argued that it gave the nutrients that man knew of, but again what happened below the nano-level? Who knew, and business didn't care. Cities began to develop more and more infrastructural problems, but there was always sufficient money around for business to continue so they never felt the problems. The problems moved further afield, and Mpho felt these as dark clouds.

She had tried to control this nano-infiltration but her young people, especially those that went West for education, brought back stories of wonders and gadgets. To begin with the village ignored these stories preferring the wisdom of the elders who still backed Mpho. But gradually these things appeared and people's resistance was broken down by the labour-saving. She had just returned from the clinic where her team were unable to cope with the latest cancers her people were developing.

She was in tears, and Yunio tried to console her. But what could either do? They understood enough of this nanostrophe to know the outcome. Her doctors always advised traditional diet and avoidance of nano-products but young rejected this advice. And their bodies could cope more, it was only as they got older. And meanwhile their youthful greed was damaging the health of older in the family, especially those who listened to their educated family. After a sad and gloomy night Yunio announced that he was going home; this did not surprise Yunio. But it di surprise here when he insisted he go alone. She felt the worst, but in what way?

As soon as he got out of the village he felt his grief implode on him; a heavy darkness entered his mind and showed in tears. He left his paths, and bashed into tree and branch as he couldn't take his focus from the pain inside. He just walked, collided, walked until eventually blood impaired his physical visions, and he stopped. He scanned the area and found a stone under a tree, and just sat. How long? He never knew. The pain inside seemed to take over, and he just felt he was pain. But the pain was not physical, it was internal. And the pain wasn't his, it was outside . it was Nature's pain. She was screaming stop playing with me, stop messing with me, let me do my job. He let rip a dramatic scream that scared and startled the jungle. The birds flew, and nearby startled animals jerked and ran. Voles scurried, and the ants stopped what they were doing and ran to their queen fearing for her.

But the scream cleared him and focussed his mind. He - they? - had to move away, had to go to the city to see, to find out, to know what to do. Assured he returned to the village and the answer was they.